Twin Peaks

Here’s something a little different from your usual bird reports…

On the Summit of Ben Nevis

On the Summit of Ben Nevis

I have taken my son Samuel up Snowdon a couple of times so, with the spring half term approaching this year, we decided it was time to launch on assault on the other peaks that make up the well-known Three Peaks Challenge, namely Scafell Pike, in the Lake District, at 978m [3209 feet] the highest “mountain” in England; and Ben Nevis (1245m) [4411 feet], the highest mountain in Scotland and the UK. It would thus be a Twin Peaks Challenge. In contrast to the genuine Three Peaks, we would not be trying to do the whole thing in 24 hours, not with just me driving.

The very worst place to begin such a challenge is Poole, Dorset, where we live. As the old Irish farmer is supposed to have said when asked the way to Dublin: “Well, you wouldn’t want to start from here”. The nearest peak is about six hours drive away. Continue reading

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Champions of the Flyway 2017 – the Media Birders’ race day

COTF-logo-900-2016

CotF Media Birders

The Media Birders 2017 team. Andy Swash (left), Dominic Couzens (middle), Tim Appleton (right).

This year I was fortunate enough to take part in the annual Champions of the Flyway international Bird Race in Israel. 34 teams from around the world assembled to compete in a 24-hour Bird Race on Tuesday 28th March, seeing who could see and hear the most species in a 24 hour period in a defined part of Southern Israel, beginning and ending in Eilat, on the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea.

The following is a detailed account of our race day. It is written to thank our many sponsors and supporters for their help.

The reason behind Champions of the Flyway is to raise money to try to put a stop to the widespread illegal slaughter of migrant birds on the eastern Mediterranean flyway. Incredibly, more than 20 million birds are shot or trapped in various countries along the flyway every year. In 2017 the money raised will go to Birdlife International’s partner in Turkey, Doğa Derneği (Birdlife in Turkey) so that they may focus on halting the illegal killing of birds on migration. For more  information see http://www.champions-of-the-flyway.com/

RACE DAY – THE MEDIA BIRDERS

04.20 – We meet in the lobby of the Agamim Hotel, the starting point for all teams. Birdrace Organisers Dan and Jonathan are there and tell us that most other people are already out – have we blown this already with a late start? Ten minutes earlier a Common Whitethroat had struck the lobby windows, but had recovered from the blow and was released. That delay has cost us; we missed it and didn’t see another all day.

Downtown Eilat (04.30-04.45)
We go into the night of southern Israel; downtown Eilat is our first destination, where there is a roost of White-eyed Gulls by a shopping mall. A House Crow calls and the House Sparrows are well awake, but we cannot see the gulls. Let’s hope this starts to go better…

Then a Striated Heron calls out of the darkness. That’s a good bird.

1- House Crow 2- House Sparrow 3- Striated Heron Continue reading

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Wildlife and Travel Blog

THE PERFECT SWARM
Bat-catching on an English autumn night

There are many joys to mammal-watching, but one is undoubtedly a tendency to do peculiar things. Take visiting a cave on a September dusk and placing long nets outside it, and then waiting, chatting in the gloom in the hope that furry animals with wings will fly into the mesh. Take sitting down with bat in gloved hand, extracting measurements by torchlight, fiddling with calipers and fine spring scales, checking the bats’ teeth and private parts, in a manner suggesting that this is normal life. It isn’t normal, but it is classic mammal-watching. While the world sleeps, we have adventures. Continue reading

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